B i o g r a p h y
Countertenor Roger O. Isaacs hails from Cape Town, South Africa where he completed his music education at the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town. He enjoyed a highly successful solo career in his native country performing a wide range of repertoire from the early music to works by twentieth-century composers. Mr. Isaacs has to his credit numerous television and radio appearances with the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
Since making his American solo debut, he has performed as soloist with many of the most prominent choral organizations on the East Coast of America, and in venues ranging from the Kennedy Center Opera House, Concert Hall and Terrace Theatre to the Washington National Cathedral, National Gallery of Art, St. Thomas 5th Avenue in New York City, and the The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Hailed by the Washington Post as a “countertenor quite extraordinary both for vocal quality and for his mastery of baroque style”, he has been called upon to perform a wide range of diverse repertoire. Past performances include solo appearances in Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, St Matthew Passion, Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Joshua, Messiah, Belshazzar and Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater for solo alto. Among others, Mr. Isaacs has performed extensively with The Folger Consort, The Cathedral Choirs at Washington National Cathedral, Cathedra, The Washington Bach Consort, The Raven Consort, The Bach Sinfonia, Opera Lafayette, Cantate Chamber Singers, Choralis, The Tiffany Consort, The Washington Chorus, Boston Cecilia, The National Gallery of Art Vocal Ensemble. His Opera appearances include the role of Apollo in Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice and Oberon in the critically acclaimed production of Britten’s A Midsummer Nights Dream with the Cape Town Opera Company in South Africa.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
Musica Florea and Roger O. Isaacs
INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL at Český Krumlov
An Evening with Roger Isaacs and Musica Florea
August 7, 2015
By Ivan Žáček
For me, the highlight of the festival was the evening of Baroque music composed by Georg Philipp Telemann, Antonín Vivaldi, Jan Dismas Zelenka and Georg Friedrich Händel, interpreted by the top Czech ensemble Musica Florea and its conductor Mark Štryncl and performed in the congenial environment of the Masquerade Hall (7 August) The guest, countertenor Roger O. Isaacs who - unfortunately for Europe - has been building up his reputation mostly on the East Coast of the USA, gave the evening its unique charm and characteristics. His rather rich timbre (he is definitely no Alfred Deller) very well complemented the sound of Štryncl’s orchestra and impressed the unusually attentive audience in Český Krumlov as an eloquent advocate of the style that goes hand in hand with the environment of Český Krumlov and its unique historical halls. The evening provided a reasonably balanced combination of orchestral numbers and arias that showed the remarkably high level of individual instrumentalists of Štryncl’s ensemble, which has been cultivated for years, and gave the singer time to rest between very demanding counter tenor sections. Roger O. Isaacs demonstrated his unfailing technique and good agility in coloratura sections, captivated the audience with his spontaneous musicality and sense of style and showed his concert with the inspired accompanying orchestra. The evening turned out to be a rare experience of style purity and complexity, culminating with the most famous encore Serse’s aria Ombra mai fu from the eponymous opera of Händel.
National Cathedral filled with Bach’s powerful ‘St. John Passion’
Countertenor Roger O. Isaacs performs Bach’s “St. John Passion” at the National Cathedral on March 29. (Donovan Marks/Washington National Cathedral)
By Cecelia H. Porter - Washington Post - March 30
Bach’s “St. John Passion” is high drama, driven by hate, vengeance, pain and ancient court procedures, as chronicled in the New Testament. On Sunday at the Washington National Cathedral, Michael McCarthy, the cathedral’s director of music, conducted a smoothly coordinated account that drew accolades from an audience that filled the farthest reaches of the building.
A major factor in this achievement was the confidence of well-seasoned singers and orchestra members in Bach’s taxing score. Many of the soloists — who included Rufus Müller, Brendan Curran, Elizabeth Cragg, Roger Isaacs, Matthew Smith, Steven Combs and Christòpheren Nomura — sang from memory, which gave them the freedom to express the full measure of anger and pain that Bach’s music calls for. The children’s choir was outstanding, as were the instrumentalists, including the baroque flutes and viola da gamba.
The solos, choruses and German Lutheran hymns depict the emotions in Bach’s music; the agony of Jesus’s trial and condemnation pervades the work. Perhaps McCarthy’s bouncing movements clarified Bach’s rhythmic pulse for those sitting in the cathedral’s back reaches, but some of his choices — coming down hard with sforzando accents on the first of each set of 16th notes in the opening chorus (“Herr, unser Herrscher”); ending the hymns with unnecessary ritardandos; or suddenly raising and lowering the volume, even within big movements — tended to override the longer phrases and the momentum of the score.
Porter is a freelance writer.